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Looking back on the ‘headlines’ of life

I recently filled out an online form that required my date of birth. I typed in the month but had to scroll down to the year. I scrolled down…down…and down…

I felt more than a tad anxious when I realized that there are more than a few years between my birthdate and 2017. Age doesn’t bother me, usually. Either we “grow” with the flow or we just grow old. The latter does not appeal to me. But when I thought of how much water has gone under the bridge of my life, it was pretty mind-boggling.

Do you have your favorite “headlines?” You know those times that we mentally highlight in bright yellow. But wait… let me get one thing clear. I’m not referring to Angelina and Brad’s divorce or the latest on Kate and William. In my book, that’s fake news — on par with the more damaging fake news that is disseminated on social media.

President John F. Kennedy’s assassination left an indelible mark on my memory. My parents began to cry when we heard the words: “The president is dead.” I remained frozen, thinking “how can this be? I shook his hand not that long ago.” (President Kennedy had visited New York City.) Trying to make some sense of this tragedy, where no sense was to be made, my heart was squeezed tight as I watched history unfold. If Kennedy’s assassination wasn’t shocking enough, the subsequent events were unreal. The nation watched in astonishment as Lee Harvey Oswald, the man accused of killing the president, was shot and mortally wounded on national television by Jack Ruby.

While driving down the Garden State Parkway with my then gal-pals, listening to Fleetwood Mac, we heard: “We interrupt this broadcast….” The announcer went on to say “The king is dead!” What king? We were like magpies all chattering at the same time. Then we were stunned into silence and disbelief when the story unfolded. Elvis Presley — beyond handsome, notoriously sexy and famous for his pelvic gyrations — was dead at the age of 42.

When President Obama won his bid for the presidency, it was a bright yellow headline for me. It was a “yes, we can” time, the beginning of change.

Recently the women’s march on Washington and the sister marches stirred my soul. We were marching for many reasons, but the bottom line was to respect the dignity of every human being.

There have been many more “bright yellow headlines” that are far too numerous to include — hey, I only get so much column space!

But what about our personal headlines?

The day I married my first husband, George, was a fairy tale come true and I was the princess. Unbeknownst to him, I had loved him since high school and what do you know, my prince had loved me all along too!

The prospect of becoming a mom when I was really a “know-it-all kid” rendered me both awestruck and terrified. I was beset with hormonal “what ifs.” My son Greg was placed in my arms while in the nurses’ station the radio was playing the Beatles “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” At that moment, Greg grasped my pinky. Although I had read every baby book imaginable, I wasn’t prepared for that all-consuming love I felt for this little guy.

When my son Jeff was born on Valentine’s Day, I was over the moon with joy. The moment I laid eyes on Jeff, that all-consuming primordial love I felt for Greg burst on the scene — and that love for both my sons, and now their wives, is ever-present.

When my first husband George died, I felt like the butt of a cruel cosmic joke. If I were to write the headline it would read “UNFAIR” bordered in black. My days were black, bleak and blank for what seemed like an eternity.

Oh, joy! I met my second husband, Frank, at a wedding that we both didn’t want to attend. We moved to Jamesport, my paradise found, where we lived until the “death do us part” tragedy played itself out again — and much too soon. One day was like the next, and they slipped by with “me” being absent. But alas, I try not to dwell on sadness; otherwise, if I look back too long, I will break my own heart. But I digress…

Surprise! Surprise! Love found me again — against my will. Do you blame me? But, the idea of being stuck was worse than to risk happiness and love again.

How about those headline events that seem inconsequential, but remain vivid?

Like my first crush. Hmm, what was his name? My dad disliked him because he had a DA haircut and wore a black leather jacket. All the more for “rebellious me“ to like him! I tasted my first kiss, given freely by a kid named Raymond. Funny, I remember his name, but I wished he were …what was his name?!

I was caught smoking by Sister Josephine in the school basement. She let me go, thankfully. But, I got into big-time trouble with the monsignor for riding on the back of Frankie’s bicycle with my arms entwined around his waist — in my school uniform. My Lord! What a big brouhaha that caper caused.

I was dancing with complete abandon to Bob Seeger’s “Old Time Rock ‘n Roll.” Unbeknownst to me, my sons Greg and Jeff, who were visiting, caught my act. Their expressions changed rapidly from disbelief, to shock and then awe. Afterward, they agreed, “Mom still had it!” I still wonder what that statement meant: Was I an old gal who still had it or did I still have it, period!

I was scheduled to serve on the altar in the not-so-distant past and somehow my vestment was stuck inside my pantyhose. (Don’t ask. I don’t know!) I was waiting to process down to the altar carrying a crucifix, no less. Thankfully, the gal behind me (no pun intended) alerted me.

I have shared some of my headline moments; we all have them. But then there are many more ordinary moments that we scarcely notice. Funny, though, most of the water that flows under the bridge of life consists of these mundane moments.

What a trip, so far…Imagine — all those consequential and inconsequential moments add up to a whole life.

 

Celia Iannelli is a native New Yorker enjoying a second career — in ‘retirement’ — as a freelance writer. She lives in Jamesport.

 

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